THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 71

…There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser…

Image result for informant painting

Informant from the 1980s by Mohammad Omran

As they dash inside Roy explains, “If I did not think this was of the utmost importance, I would not have asked you here. But I need to confirm the source of a smell in my control room, before I can act on any hunches.”

The freshly minted investigative duo and one armed {with two arms} escort enter Colony Mission Control, heading straight for Braden King, who will have the latest of the late news.

“The New Mayflower has been reprogrammed to liftoff at 11:57 to dodge a meteor… oh and and the downrange tracking is ready. That puts us on t-minus 1:49.55.” Braden has really pushed the whole ground crew in Roy’s short absence.

There is no reason to panic yet, but Miss Bouchette is here to help me put some pieces together, she being the only person who spoke with either a genuine informant… or a really good guesser. And we’re not talking about an old-fashioned-Chinese-like-cyber-attack.”

“Thank you for the professional manner in which you included us in your story. Those folks on Mars are dear to us and had you just blurted the news out, we would have lost control of things.” Braden doesn’t bother her with the wrenching details of Deke and Gus’ reaction to her report.

“We will be in the briefing room Braden, and not to be disturbed!”

“If there is a hitch in the countdown, I’ll let you know – t-minus 1:42 and counting.”

He nods, checks his PDA and opens the door to the classified room by placing his palm on the encoder on its right side. It is not as neat or pristine as she would have guessed one long littered table that is used for confidential meetings, taco parties and card games. Roy enters a ten character code into the comprehensive NASA database, brightening the 75” monitor on the wall to display personnel files that may hold the clue to an inside traitor.

But it is Francine who holds the key that unlocks the dark secret. She tells him every detail she could recall from that very hectic and eventful 10 minutes, which seemed much longer than 9 1/2 hours ago.

“Are you sure he had a Pakistani accent, I know that country became part of Talibanistan ten years ago,” asks Roy who knows just about everyone who has not bought into Space Colony 1.

“He said the wordsassalamu alaikum’, I looked that up; ‘may Allah’s peace be with you’ in the Arab culture. And he referred to Korean, Nepal and Taliban joy about the accident… and we are imperialistic infidels.”

The Nepal reference strikes a nerve.

“I wasn’t aware that Nepal had an axe to grind about the Mars project. But there is somebody in this complex from Nepal, that strange little tech named Gherkin who replaced Phil Jansky. I wonder if there is a connection.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 71


page 66

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 67

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 67

…Roy Crippen’s thoughts degrade to the horrifying events of 12 hours ago, when everything was going at the same giddy canter then, until things reached the point of no return

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Point of no Return – Vickers Vimy Transatlantic flight of Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown- by Alan Hindle

An eight month round trip awaits the 3 modern day Mayflower’s astro-sailors, prepared now to be flung away from Earth’s gravity out to a new completely literal New World. {There was supposed to be a few dozen others aboard} Roy speaks to Rick Stanley, the commander of the rescue mission, who not coincidentally was the understudy for Chronicle’s  assignment, without the benefits of a cutie copilot; his 2nd has chest-hair with the name of Saul.

“As soon as you get within hailing range, at about half way there, please go over the shuttle-to-lander docking procedure, it has never been done in space.”

“What if they don’t have the power to lift off?”

“Well… in that case you will need to test your landing skills ‘cause it ain’t going to be like Elgin A.F.B (Lovell Space Center),” Roy is stressing flexibility in the face of fluidity. “I do not want you coming back empty handed.”

“I have been running through all the possibilities one by one, Roy.” There is only one person who has  Sampson McKinney’s flying skills, but she is in the same hope-lacking boat, so 2nd place goes to Rick Stanley. “What I can’t do, Sammy Mac will tell me, no doubt.”

“The new booster package should get you off the ground and out, right Karl?”

“Escape velocity is 5.027 km/sec, which is less than half of Earth’s, so if you take off at a low trajectory you can get up and out with minimal fuel consumption.”

“Yeah, it would be a bitch if we had to coast home, but I am hoping we can do this in space.”

USS Hillary R Clinton

The brief statistical back-and-forth ends when the countdown demands Commander Rick’s full attention. Every minute passing brings him closer to a launch that has only been attempted in a simulator, yes a simulator. The New Mayflower is perched at a 45º angle, aboard a 100 yard ramp and ready to be hurled, like an F-77N Navy fighter off the flight deck of the USS Hillary R Clinton, knifing through the atmosphere, while missing every orbiting object circling the globe.

Roy’s thoughts degrade to the horrifying events of 12 hours ago. Things were going at the same giddy canter then, until things reached the point of no return. Just what was the exact cause of that muddle had to be set aside for the current rescue mission, but he would definitely sift through the evidence leading to Space Colony’s unexplained demise.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 67


page 64

“Mommy, what’s a movie theater?” – WIF @ The (Failed) Movies

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Movies That Were

Box Office Duds

Despite what Disney and Marvel would have us believe, there’s no magic formula for making box office gold. Everyone who makes a movie fully expects it to succeed and do well, but sometimes that’s not in the cards. While there are some movies that are critically maligned and do poorly overall, when a high-budget movie fails miserably the losses can be staggering.

10. The Adventures of Pluto Nash – Lost $96 million

If you don’t recall Eddie Murphy’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash you’re in good company. The 2002 film cost over $100 million to make and it was a massive science fiction comedy extravaganza. Or at least that’s how they described it, since barely anyone actually went to see it. It grossed a paltry $7 million at the box office.

The movie is so bad that even its star Eddie Murphy claims trying to watch it causes him to weep openly. It’s one thing for critics to savage a movie, and Pluto Nash has a dismal 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it’s quite another when even the star admits that the whole movie was absolutely terrible.

Because movie budgets are a little tricky to wrap your head around, and they also factor in things like marketing costs on top of it as well as adjusting for inflation, at least one source claims that the total loss for Pluto Nash tops $130 million.

9. Stealth – lost $96 million

In 2005 anyone probably would have thought a movie in which Jessica Biel and Jamie Foxx have to tangle with artificially intelligent killer fighter jets would have been a good idea, right? That’s a big yes and no.

The studio that financed the movie for $135 million definitely thought it was a good idea. Audiences who didn’t actually go see the movie did not.  With a healthy marketing budget that was really trying to push it, when it managed to pull in $77 million at the box office it wasn’t as small a loss as the budget makes it seem. All told, it’s estimated that the movie lost about $96 million.

Stealth sits at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Roger Ebert called it a dumbed-down Top Gun. If you recall, no one ever claimed Top Gun was very smart in the first place.

8. 47 Ronin – Lost $98 million

The Keanu Reeves movie 47 Ronin is what is known in Japan as a Chushingura. It’s a fictionalized account of the real-life events surrounding 47 master-less samurai, known as ronin, who sought to avenge the death of their master.

The story has been made into a film no less than six times but never was the story as big and extravagant as when Keanu starred in it back in 2013. It had a staggering $175 million budget, the highest ever for a debut director. And in a very telling sign, the movie sat on the shelf for two years after it was produced. That’s never good.

47 Ronin lost an estimated $98 million and the blame has been put, in part, on Carl Rinsch and his first time directing chops. It only has 16% on Rotten Tomatoes and many critics accused it of being both boring and cliche.

7. Lone Ranger – Lost $190 million

There are a number of movies that have been called cursed over the years. Poltergeist was one such movie, famously said to be cursed from the first installment through to the third of the series. The Lone Ranger is another film which definitely deserves to be considered for that honor, assuming you believe in such things.

The production of The Lone Ranger was hampered by numerous problems. It suffered delays as well as massive budgetary issues. At one point the budget had reached almost $300 million, and Disney had to shut down production to retool everything. That resulted in some cuts to special effects and other parts of the budget until it was scaled back to a lean, mean $215 million.

There were accidents on set with the stunt people involved, and a crew member even drowned during the production. Disney was fined $60,000 for safety violations and some inclement weather destroyed sets and cost even more money on the budget.

When the film was finally released and the bad reviews rolled in, the result was Disney chalking the movie up to $190 million loss.

6. Mars Needs Moms – Lost $111 million

In 2011, Mars Needs Moms seemed like a sure thing. The legendary Robert Zemeckis, who was responsible for iconic movies like Forrest Gump and Back to the Future, produced the motion-capture animation. The film itself was based on a book by writer and cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. It almost seemed worth the $150 million budget.

When you factor in marketing it’s believed that Disney probably invested about $200 million in this movie. Which is why when, on its opening weekend, it only pulled in $6.9 million people started to get worried. The final gross of the film was about $39 million, which means lost anywhere from $111 million to $161 million, depending on which numbers you want to work with.

Rubbing salt in the wound, when it was released overseas it somehow made even less money: only $2.1 million throughout 14 countries. The question needs to be asked then, how did the movie that had so much talent behind it end up failing so miserably? The problem may have been in the execution.

Mars Needs Moms used motion capture technology, the kind of stuff we as audiences really took a shine to with characters like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, or the Na’vi from the movie Avatar. The problem was the way it was used in Mars Needs Moms was less cool, and what at least one person described as creepy.

5. Titan AE – Potentially Lost $120 Million on a $85 Million Budget

On paper, the animated film Titan AE looked bulletproof. Director Don Bluth, who created classics like The Secret of NIMHThe Land Before Time, and An American Tail was helming a sci-fi animated film featuring the voice talents of Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman and many other well known stars.

Behind the scenes, things were pretty ugly during the production of the movie. For starters, Don Bluth was not the original director. The film was already $30 million into the production before the original director was fired and Bluth was hired alongside Gary Goldman. According to Goldman, the initial $30 million was used to do some pre-production art and nothing else.

The movie blended traditional 2D animation with 3D animation, which didn’t seem to be a conscious choice from the get go. According to Goldman, they just abandoned the 2D idea halfway through production and finished it with 3D because that’s what was new and cool at the time.

The movie ended up losing somewhere between $70 million and $120 million on an $85 million budget. It also saw the head of Fox Studios fired by Rupert Murdoch, and the closing of their Phoenix Animation Studio, which had produced two major bombs including the earlier animated film Anastasia.

4. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas – Lost $125 million

Proving that there are no guarantees with animated movies no matter how much effort goes into them, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas bombed like a case of Molotov cocktails. The film was produced by DreamWorks Studios, and featured voice acting from Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Michelle Pfeiffer. That all sounds great in theory, but the reality was not.

For unknown reasons, Sinbad was turned into a Sicilian in this movie, completely ignoring the source material, which was just one of several issues. According to DreamWorks, the budget for Sinbad was $60 million. That number should be looked at with a bit of skepticism, as the former head of DreamWorks David Geffen said in an interview that the movie actually lost the studio $125 million. No amount of advertising budget can more than double the losses of a movie, so DreamWorks may have been playing a little fast and loose with their numbers, or their co-founder Geffen just had no idea what he was talking about.

The movie had extensive marketing tie-ins with Baskin-Robbins, Hasbro, M&Ms and more. When it debuted, it didn’t even out-gross Finding Nemo, which had already been in theaters for six weeks.

3. Cutthroat Island – Lost $147 million

It’s not often that a movie does so poorly it kills an entire genre of film, but that’s what Cutthroat Island seemed to do. The Renny Harlin directed movie, starring Geena Davis in a swashbuckling adventure, did so poorly Hollywood didn’t make another pirate movie for over a decade.

It can’t be overstated just how awful this movie’s whole legacy is. The budget for Cutthroat Island was $115 million back in 1995. Its box office take was $10 million. This was so bad, it actually made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest financial loss in film history at the time. When you adjusted for inflation today, you’re looking at a loss of $147 million.

The IMDb facts page for the movie reads like a rogue’s gallery of bad ideas and terrible mistakes. One actor was fired for getting drunk and mooning Geena Davis. Star Matthew Modine explained that some of the budget went for the shipping of dozens and dozens of cases of V8 for the director to drink on set. They had to be shipped from the United States to Malta, and apparently an entire room of the vegetable juice was left at the end of filming. On top of that, three cameras were used to film every single shot which resulted in massive amounts of unused film at the end of production.

Harlin is said to have fired the chief camera operator from the set, which resulted in dozens of other crew members quitting in solidarity. The blame can’t solely be put on Harlin’s shoulders though, as he tried to quit production realizing just how bad the movie was going to be, as did Geena Davis. The studio refused to stop production.

2. Gemini Man – Lost $111 million

Betting on Will Smith is usually a smart choice when it comes to Hollywood. Many of his early films were massive blockbusters, like Independence Day and Men in Black. Everyone has a miss once in a while though, and Smith definitely missed the mark with his 2019 sci-fi flick Gemini Man.

Estimates place Gemini Man‘s losses at around $111 million. A number of factors seem to have come together to make the movie fail so badly. For starters, it was filmed at 120 frames per second for a 3D release. High frame-rate movies like that have a curious effect on audiences.

While it seems like higher frame rate and crisper detail should make a movie a more exciting and interesting experience for viewers, what happens is the movie becomes so real and clean looking it removes some of the magic and glamour we expect from movies. While it’s hard to define, the result is that audiences just don’t like the way it looks.

The other problem with the movie was that the story-line was pretty generic and not interesting. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, but being so run-of-the-mill and then having so many reviews dominated by the technological aspects of the high-frame-rate meant that no one was really trying hard to sell the movie.

1. Terminator: Dark Fate – Lost $120 million

The Terminator franchise is one of the most unusual in film history. The first one made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star, proved James Cameron as a blockbuster filmmaker, and started the ball rolling on one of cinema’s most famous characters. 10 years later when we got Terminator 2 it became one of those rare times when a sequel surpasses the original. And then things took a turn.

Rise of the MachinesSalvation, and Genisys were all fairly underwhelming at the box office and for critics. But then James Cameron returned to the franchise with Dark Fate and brought series star Linda Hamilton back as well. It felt like a recipe to take us right back to the legendary status of T2: Judgment Day. Or at least that’s what it seemed like at first.

Dark Fate opened at $29 million at the domestic box office. Respectable numbers for a low budget film, but not for something of this caliber. The budget for Dark Fate was estimated at somewhere around $185 million. In order to break even the movie needed to make about $450 million. That put the movie on track to lose a staggering $120 million overall.

Despite having the original director and cast back, and even being critically praised for being the best film in the franchise since Terminator 2, it seems that audiences had just had enough of Terminator after so many bad movies in a row.


“Mommy, what’s a movie theater?”

WIF @ The Movies

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 58

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 58

Image result for quotation marksImage result for quotation marks…Thank you watching this special report, I am Steven Sharkey. We will be seeing you at our 5:30 Newscast,..

pregnant-pause

…I get one (plucking) line at the end? What is that?” Only some of that reaches the air…

“Nnnooooooo,” screams Deke McKinney, leaping to his feet, a boiling flash of blood flowing to his brain. The brothers stand together, eyes fixed to the televiewer.

Vertical-001Vertical-001“These are Roy Crippen’s words to me,‘At approximately 11 AM local time, Space Colony 1vanished from NASA tracking. The astronaut team of Commander Sampson McKinney and Lt. Commander Celeste McKinney, who were on the surface of Mars at the time on the 1st surface exploration, are believed to be thriving, though communication has been disconnected on their end. There are sketchy clues to what may have occurred.

‘We have weighed all viable options and have decided to launch the deep-space shuttle New Mayflower, with a skeleton crew of three, to effect the rescue of the McKinneys before their means of survival have been exhausted. This unprecedented Midnight launch will retrieve two of the World’s greatest space pioneers.’

“He finished by telling this reporter, ‘Plans are already in the making, discussed by our consortium partners, to build a second orbiting Colony in place starting before this year is out.’

“This is Francine Bouchette and KHST 13 will continue to monitor this tragedy and will bring you the latest, whenever that will be… back to you Steven.”Image result for blooper

Thank you watching this special report, I am Steven Sharkey, we will be seeing you at our 5:30 Newscast,closes an embarrassingly mortified co-anchor. “I get one (plucking) line at the end? What is that?” Only some of that reaches the air


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 58


page 55

 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 57

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 57

…“You’re just a speck of moon dust to her, like she would be interested in a kid like you,”…

Pebble Beach by Emily James

 CHAPTER FOUR

  Space Family Confidential

  “As we prepare to bid adieu from the scenic and historic Pebble Beach Golf Links, you are looking at rare ground, one of only 500 pieces of real estate around the world that has the capability to host a professional golf tournament, none more treasured than this.

“And how appropriate it is that the man holding the Bing Crosby Trophy is none other than Evan pebble-beach-trophySamuel Michelson, whose father has joined him on the 18th green. Let’s go down to Bubba Watson for the presentation…”

Gus McKinney is wearing the headset for the televiewer and he has set it in motion to search for other sporting activities. They have violated rule #1 in the McKinney brood: Never put a VoIP block on the televiewer. They have been incommunicado for the balance of this January day. Braden King, their Earthly guardian is currently on his way back to the ranch, to ward off “you know what” from reaching the kiddos before they can be properly {co}parented.

Related image“AW, COME ON GUS, if we have to watch Four-man Power-Curling or Male Ice Dancing I am going to throw up,” brother Deke is already tiring of the 2030 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. The mindbogglingly 1000 choices arbitrarily comes to rest on the low number 13, the lower the number, the more local it is; 1000 being JEOPARDY!, hosted by Watson the IBM brainiac.

“Good Evening, my name is Francine Bouchette and this is a KHST 13 Special Report, your news authority for the last 10 years.” An assortment of Space Colony footage scrolls on the screen.gif pretty art indie moon Grunge space stars dark Alternative moon gif phases craters

“Isn’t she a fox?” raves Gus.

“You’re just a speck of moon dust to her, like she would be interested in a kid like you,” which isn’t completely true, given her afternoon’s crash course in McKinney Family history.

breaking-news-1

The ever-fetching Francine reappears on camera; now joined by her junior co-anchor {piece-of-crap} Steven Sharkey who doesn’t have a clue on what he may be reading in a few seconds.

“In a KHST 13 News Authority Exclusive, I just got off the phone with Space Colony 1 Coordinator Roy Crippen, a friend to Channel 13 News, having confirmed a story that I have been tracking down all afternoon. He has confirmed the horrible news that Space Colony 1 appears to have been destroyed, which verifies my confidential alternate source.”

“Nnnooooooo,” screams Deke…


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 57


page 54

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 55

…A cold chill travels up her spine at the thought of the reprehensible plight of the McKinneys…

time-magazine-001

Since the newswoman is so close to going with this story live, she takes a deep breath to reassess the wisdom of her coming actions. In the big scheme of things, nothing is bigger than {breaking} news of a probable Space Colony disaster, but in her hours compiling file footage, Francine has come to admire the husband-wife astronaut team, who have invested their lives, sacrificed valuable family time, and now may be doomed to sacrificing their lives, literally.

Image result for #1Image result for #2She discovers a hidden reserve of compassion deep down inside. It has never been clearer why the attractive couple ranked #1 & #2 in  TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 Most Influential People issue, for the second consecutive year. Last year they were just appearing on the national scene as an epic family.

A cold chill travels up her spine at the thought of the reprehensible plight of these good folk.

What had started out as breaking news about the demise of Space Colony 1 unexpectedly evolves into a mournful hodge-podge of doom and gloom, mostly because of the time she would devote to Sampson and Celeste McKinney, their lives on Earth and their fate in space. But the truth is, the details are meager and the creative latitude too tempting.Image result for 4:30

The script as she wrote it has a somber tone, with a theme that challenges NASA’s goals and the price it has exacted on the world economy, along with unrealized expectations. It is 4:30 and she programs her words into the teleprompter, something she almost never does.

When she takes a break before heading to make-up and hair, the gaunt face of Roy Crippen, whose eyes display the stress of unmitigated devotion, keep popping into her brain. He has become the face of Space Colony 1, unfailingly cooperative to a fault and polite beyond belief; all those inane questions from ignorant neophytes. She cannot help but project the man’s current mental state and her uncensored news flash may push him past some unforeseen brink.

Suddenly, like a sinner being visited by an angel of mercy, Francine finds herself racing to the nearest desk phone.  In a minute she is hailing the line leading directly to the Galveston launch facility. She gets funneled into a cybex satellite telecommunication router.

“Galveston Launch, we are currently unavailable due to technical problems.”

It sounds like a computer generated voice.

“Oh yeah – you can *#%+@&! – you stupid machine! I need to speak with Mr. Roy Crippen and I mean now!”

“I am sorry but he is unavailable.”newsroom-001

That is not an automated voice. Oops.

“My name is Francine Bouchette, from KHST 13 Television, Houston. I have urgent information that I need to discuss with Mr. Crippen.”

“There is a news conference scheduled for one o’clock AM and your station will be receiving a press release shortly. Until then, he remains unavailable.” She is firm.

Francine is even more firm, “I know what happened to Space Colony 1.”

There is no response.

“I am going live in twelve minutes.”

“Please hold the line.

If she hadn’t stopped smoking, in the interest of white teeth and porcelain skin, this would be the perfect time for a 100 Slim Menthol. The digital clock clicks down to 9 minutes before the live cut-in.

“Get on the stick Lady,” she mumbles into the phone.

It is three more minutes before an anxious male voice joins the connection.

“What exactly do you think you know about Space Colony, Ms. Bouchette,” this man doesn’t beat around the bush.


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Angel of Mercy by Fluro Knife deviantart.com

Episode 55


page 52

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 48

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 48

We have two people alive on Mars and we will not rest until they are safe, back here on Earth!…

Space Colony!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” A dazed technician stands, face paled by disbelief.

“It’s gone…” All he can do is point at the mission mockup and the flashing light that no longer shows anSC1 explodes orbit line around Mars. With all the distractions, no one had been monitoring the status lights; one green blink on the surface, none in orbit.

“Mr. Crippen, what has happened,” Aldona Afridi has more than a passing interest in the goings on?

Roy frantically seeks out key faces around the room. Total shock applies, with some tears on the move, spreading among most of the assembled 100.

cropped-mars3.jpgThey mourn the realization that any further contact with the McKinneys, now helplessly stranded on the Plain of Xanthe, would be impossible. The orbiting Colony was their only lifeline and that now seems utterly destroyed.

As good a good leader does, Roy Crippen collects his thoughts and regroups. There are contingency plans for such an unthinkable occurrence as this. He must sort through the options; no matter how limited they seem at this point.

“Mr. Frodo… sorry Afridi,” he has Tolkien on his brain. “We will be in touch with you in the near future. In fact I will arrange for you and your family to be picked up by American operatives in Turkey. Thank you for trying to warn us, perhaps we will find a place for you after all. Please leave your contact info with Mr. King.”

“I thank you for your kind offer, but isn’t the Space Colony project now terminated,” assumes the guilt-ridden accidental co-conspirator?

mckinneys-of-space-001“We have two people alive on Mars and we will not rest until they are safe, back here on Earth!”

The McKinneys are aware that Roy Crippen will not give up on them.

“Please ready New Mayflower for immediate liftoff,” Crippen commands, “zero hundred hours. No later!”

A rare midnight launch and don’t spare the afterburners!!


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 48


page 46

Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers – WIF Bad Things Go Happen

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Epic Natural Disasters

Throughout History

Natural disasters have existed as long as humanity, and in fact a lot longer. This means that pretty much every century in recorded history has been forced to endure one or more incredibly destructive attacks of nature’s strongest powers. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest natural disasters in history, and how they affected the people of that era.

10. Peshtigo Fire

Most people are familiar with the Great Chicago Fire, with its “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern” backstory and hundreds of dead. However, it’s far from the most destructive fire in American history. It’s not even the most destructive one that started on October 8, 1871. That dubious honor goes to the Peshtigo Fire of Wisconsin — the most destructive forest fire in America’s history, which caused around 1,200 deaths, burned an incredible 1.2 million acres and burned through 16 different towns, in 11 counties. At one point, it even “skipped over” Green Bay to burn sections of two counties on the other side. It even made the same amount of damage as the much more urban Chicago fire — roughly $169 million.

Where the Great Chicago Fire was a disaster, the Peshtigo fire was hell, plain and simple. The fire was likely started by careless railroad workers who caused a brush fire which the dry summer and unfortunate winds soon whipped up into a superfast wall of flame that some say moved almost like a tornado. The flames “convulsed” and moved in strange ways, eating up all the oxygen and bursting fleeing people ablaze. It looked like the end of the world, and for many, it was. There were heroics, and tragic losses, and desperate survival stories. One heroic man reportedly carried a woman all the way to safety, thinking it was his wife, and when he found it was a stranger he immediately went insane. A young girl spent all night in the river to escape the inferno, holding on to a cow’s horn to stay moored.

The worst damage was done to the fire’s namesake, the town of Peshtigo. 800 of the fire’s 1,200 victims were from there, and the entire place was “gone in an hour.”

9. Ch’ing-yang event

There have been many times when meteors and meteorites have graced our planet with their presence, but arguably the one with the biggest death toll is the Ch’ing-yang event in 1490. Seeing as this meteor shower event in China happened well over five centuries ago, actual details about the event are unfortunately somewhat fuzzy. Accounts of the era report that “stones falling like rain” killed up to 10,000 people on the Ch’ing-Yang area of the Shaanxi Province.

Modern experts have expressed doubt over that exact figure — after all, it is the only meteor shower case with such a giant death toll. However, pretty much everyone agrees that a “dramatic event” happened at the reported time and place, and it’s speculated that a breakup of an asteroid may indeed have resulted in a deadly rain of celestial hail.

8. Calcutta cyclone

The Ganges River delta area is no stranger to tropical storms, but the Calcutta cyclone of 1737, also known as the Hoogly River cyclone, ranks among the absolute worst. It struck on an early autumn morning just south of the city of Calcutta, tearing 200 miles inlands before finally calling it a day. The cyclone brought with it a 30 to 40-foot storm surge (a sudden rise of water level in Ganges), along with 15 inches of rain over just six hours.

The combination of these elemental attacks was catastrophic. Most of the city of Calcutta, built largely of mud huts and brick buildings, was utterly demolished. The city suffered 3,000 casualties, but the cyclone’s overall damage was over a hundred times worse; The disaster is estimated to have killed up to 350,000 people and destroyed around 20,000 boats, ships and canoes of all shapes and sizes.

7. Dadu River dam landslide

On June 1, 1976, a huge earthquake shook the Kangding-Luding area of southwest China, causing all the problems that a major 7.75 magnitude quake can cause. What happened next was worse. A landslide dam (debris from the landslide blocking the water flow of the river), and as is so often the case in impromptu dams, it unfortunately wasn’t built to last.

After building a nice reservoir behind it for 10 days, the landslide dam eventually breached. The water cascaded downstream as a catastrophic wall of death, flooding the areas it encountered to the tune of 100,000 deaths. Experts think that this was likely the most destructive event of this particular nature in history.

6. Coringa cyclones

Coringa was a large and prosperous Indian port city at the mouth of river Godavari. These days, it’s still there, but only as a mere small village. This is because the former busy city went through some of the worst cyclones in history.

In 1789, Coringa received a massive blow when a nasty cyclone tore through the area, leaving around 20,000 people dead. The shaken city was nevertheless able to resume its functions, but unbeknownst to its residents, their terrors had only begun. On November 25, 1839, another, much worse cyclone came, bringing a 40-foot storm surge and punishing winds with it. Once the roar of the storm died down, Coringa’s entire port was destroyed. The death count of the cyclone was an estimated 300,000 people, which along with the 20,000 boats that were also destroyed by the storm marked the end of Coringa’s glory days.

5. Krakatoa volcanic eruption of 1883

What the Krakatoa volcano’s eruption in August 1883 lacked in death toll (it killed “only” 36,000 people), it delivered in pure, deadly spectacle. The volcano, which was on a 3-by-5.5 mile island between Sumatra and Java, started giving signs of upcoming trouble months before the incident, starting with massive ash clouds, “thundering” noises and strange “natural fireworks” that lit the sky. Unaware of the impeding doom, the people living on nearby islands took to celebrating the show — only to be rudely interrupted when Krakatoa started a very different, deadly party.

On August 26, the first blast threw debris and a gas cloud a good 15 miles in the air. The next morning, the area was shaken by four explosions that equaled the strength of 200 megatons of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was around 0,01% of that) and could be heard from 2,800 miles away. Super-heated steam, hot gases and volcanic matter scorched the surrounding 25 miles at speeds over 62 miles-per-hour.

The eruption claimed its first victims via thermal injuries from its mighty blasts, and the rest fell victim to the 120-foot tsunami that came when the volcano collapsed into an undersea caldera. Even after its initial terrors were over, Krakatoa wouldn’t stop wrecking humanity’s day. The eruption was so strong that it actually changed the climate and dropped temperatures all over the world.

4. Shaanxi earthquake

In 1556, the Shaanxi province of China had the extreme misfortune of hosting what is thought to be the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. The quake was around 8 on the Richter scale, meaning it was a “great” earthquake that is totally capable of leveling communities near the epicenter. The Shaanxi quake wasn’t content with just communities, either; Chinese annals report that it lasted mere seconds, but was so incredibly strong that it destroyed buildings, remodeled rivers, caused floods, ignited massive fires and even “leveled mountains.”

As you can probably expect, such a massive disaster was bad news for any and all humans who happened on its way. The Shaanxi earthquake had an estimated 830,000 casualties, and it actually cut the population of the area by a ridiculous 60 percent. Oddly, it also managed to affect the architectural trends of the area: Because many people had been killed by falling stone buildings, the rebuilding process saw the adaptation of wood, bamboo and other more earthquake-resistant materials.

3. Yellow River floods of China

Between 1887 and 1938, China’s famed Huang He (Yellow River) went through the top three most destructive floods in recorded history. The 3,395-mile river is extremely silted, which makes especially the North China Plain’s flatlands to be in constant risk of flooding: Since the 2nd century BCE, it has flooded an estimated 1,500 times, and no one can even begin to calculate the death and destruction these floods have brought in total.

We do, however, know unpleasantly well the havoc these three ultra-destructive floods brought on the ill-prepared China. In the flood that happened over September and October of 1887 (and the famine and diseases it brought to the survivors) the death toll is estimated somewhere between 900,000 and two million people. An even more destructive one in August 1931 covered 34,000 square miles of land in water, and “partially” flooded a further 8,000. Up to 4 million people were killed by the flood and its aftermath, and a devastating 80 million people were left homeless. This particular flood is often considered the most deadly natural disaster in recorded history.

The last of the three mega-floods came in June 1938, and it was actually completely man-made. Thanks to the military’s destruction of dikes near Kaifeng in an effort to stop the approaching Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese war, up to 900,000 people died.

2. The great European famine

If even honest men can do terrible things when they’re desperate, and the best way to make a person desperate is to make them terribly hungry, imagine what would happen if you’d make a whole continent starve. Actually, you don’t need to, because that exact thing happened in 14th century Europe.

The Great European Famine happened when bad weather conditions caused crops to fail all over Europe from 1315 to the summer harvest of 1317. The results were nothing short of cataclysmic. The few years of hunger single-handedly stopped a centuries-long time of wealth and growth, and plunged the continent into a pandemonium of disease, death, crime, and even the indescribable horrors of infanticide and cannibalism. Millions of people died, and it took until 1922 for Europe to recover from the terror. In fact, the effects of the disaster can still be felt today: Reportedly, certain parts of France are still more sparsely populated than they were just before the Great Famine hit.

1. Plague of Justitian

Disclaimer: this one has a death toll that goes right through the roof, though technically it’s not a natural disaster in the “earth rises to devour us all” sense, but rather an outbreak of disease. A massive, massive outbreak of disease.

Imagine being an all-powerful emperor trying to cement your legacy, only to find that the main thing history books remember about you is that a bunch of rodents managed to kill countless thousands of people during your reign … and then giving the ensuing epidemic. Such was the fate of Byzantine’s emperor Justitian I, who became the namesake of the Plague of Justitian (or Justitian’s plague, because why bother giving it just one version of the guy’s name?) just because he happened to be in charge when it struck.

Justitian’s plague, which was basically a nasty cellar band version of the Black Plague before it went mainstream, had formed in China and/or India, and its tours eventually took it to Egypt and assorted trade routes. it got its big break in the year 542, when the rodents bearing the disease finally reached the mighty city of Constantinople. Reports indicate that the city was struck with pretty much all forms of plague at once: Apart from the Black Death classic bubonic plague, pneumonic and septicemic types were also present. As such, citizens started keeling over by the thousand. Tens of thousands of people died in an extremely short span of time, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that authorities were unable to dispose of the masses of dead, diseased bodies in a timely manner.

After the plague was done with Justitian’s Constantinople, it turned its attention to the Mediterranian and later Persia. Its active career lasted for an estimated half a century, though some indicate that the plague continued its Mediterranean tour for a good 225 years. Ultimately, it’s estimated that the Plague of Justitian killed up to 40% of Constantinople’s residents, and the entire Byzantine empire lost somewhere between 25 and 50 million people. Nice legacy, Justitian.


Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers

WIF Bad Things Go Happen

Alpha Omega M. D. – Episode #200

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #200

… I think the captain of the U-boat has had attack of conscience,” counters a repulsed Judith. She does not understand war, not even after a nine month dose…

U-Boat by fluidgeometry – Deviant Art

As the Pearson-Eastman Journal launch rounds peninsula Fife, passing the mouth of the Firth of Forth, they spot a terrifying sight, a crippled ship listing heavily to the starboard, with few prospects of staying afloat. Being faster than Ferrell’s ship, they double back to warn them. No more than a minute passes before they can blow a horn of warning, to cause the large boat to turn for the safety of the firth.

A pair of bubbling streaks follows them into the outlet of the River Tay, one striking the stern, the other close behind, destroying the screws and igniting a fresh load of fuel. The resulting chain reaction explosion snaps the defenseless ship into two distinct sections, like a lengthwise banana. Each piece turns over, nosing under the surf in a blink of an eye.

Risking their own safety, the launch plows through a maze of bobbing crates and floatables, searching for survivors in the horrific chaos. But unlike the Titanic or Lusitania, this is a cargo vessel; humans are few, all except one, the crew. The way it goes down, swallowed nearly whole by a cold sea not 13 leagues from Dundee, does not bode well for the thirty, not having had a chance to don life jackets.

“Over there!” Judith points to a man clinging to a plank. They pray that it is John Ferrell, but as they slow to snatch him out of 40 degree chop, he turns out to be the first mate.

“Have you seen anyone else?” is the repeated question, each gaining a negative signal.

Fifty yards away, in the direction of the submerged missiles, huge air bubbles rise and the sea swells. The letters U-36 break the surface, followed by a 215 foot fuselage. The Pearson people freeze, not knowing what to expect. Of the five uniformed German sailors, none is manning the deck mounted machine gun and their hands are occupied by binoculars, not the issued Lugar side arms. One of them calls out in their language, guttural sympathy rather than confrontation.

The launch commander is skeptical. “They must be out of bullets.”

“No, I think the captain has had attack of conscience,” counters a repulsed Judith. She does not understand war, not even after a nine month dose.

“Let’s get out of here, before they change their mind,” urges the commander. “They won’t leave until they fish something of value out of the water.”war-001

“We’ve got to go back to Perth, Barrie shouldn’t find out by reading a newspaper.” Harv tries to do the right thing, contrary to self-preservation. He apologizes to his people, for having exposed them to the ugliest side of humanity. “Filthy goddamned war!”

He never takes God’s name in vain. Almost never.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Firth of Forth in Scotland by Jose Luis Cezon Garcia

Episode #200


page 187 (end ch. 10)

No Summer, No Vacation, No Fun, No Kidding – WIF Into History

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Global Impact

of the Year

Without a Summer

The year 1816 was the first since the onset of the French Revolutionary Wars in which the western world was at peace. In Europe, the nightmare of the Napoleonic Wars began to fade. In North America, Washington DC began the process of rebuilding after being burned by the British Army during the War of 1812. Global commerce was expected to thrive, unimpeded by the raiding ships of nations locked in a death grip with each other. Farmers expected strong markets for their crops, shippers looked forward to record profits, manufacturers hoped the return of peace would create demand for their products. But then a funny thing happened. There was no summer. As late as August of that year, hard freezes in the farmlands of upper New York and New England destroyed what little crops had been planted during a spring of continuous snow and freezing weather.

1816 was the year of no summer, not just in North America, but across the Northern Hemisphere. Record cold, freezing rains, floods, and frosts occurred throughout the months in which warmer weather could be reasonably expected, given centuries of its showing up more or less on schedule. It did not, and without global communication to understand why, the underpinnings of civilization – farming and trade – suffered across the globe. The year with no summer is now understood to have been the result of a series of geological events which masked the sun with volcanic dust, but to those who endured it, it was simply an inexplicable disaster. The commercial effects continued to be felt for years, as financial markets roiled from the unexpected disruption of trade and investment. For those unconcerned with climate change it remains a stark, though wholly ignored, warning of the power of nature. Here are just a few of its impacts.

10. Thomas Jefferson found his indebtedness increased by drastic crop failures

In 1815 former president Thomas Jefferson, living in retirement at his Monticello estate, offered his personal library as replacement for the losses suffered by the Library of Congress when the British burned the American capital. The sale was a gesture which gained Jefferson some temporary praise, but more importantly to him it provided an infusion of badly needed money. The former president was broke, and the $23,950 (almost $400,000 today) he received alleviated some, but by no means all, of his indebtedness. Jefferson was relying on a strong crop from his Virginia farms in 1816 to reduce his debts further. In his Farm Book for 1816 Jefferson noted the unusual cold as early as May; “repeated frosts have killed the early fruits and the crops of tobacco and wheat will be poor,” he wrote.

Jefferson struggled with the bizarre weather throughout the summer months, recording temperature and rainfall data still used by scientists studying the phenomenon, but he was unaware of its cause. He did lament its effect. Jefferson’s corn and wheat crops were reduced by two thirds, his tobacco even more so, and the former president slipped yet more deeply into debt, as did most of the farmers of the American states of Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and all of New York and New England. The failure of tobacco crops was particularly devastating, ships which normally would have carried the cured leaves to Europe lay idle, and British tobacconists shifted to plantations in Africa as the source of the weed, in high demand in Europe. During the summer, Jefferson reported frosts in every month of the year in the higher elevations of Virginia, and in every state north of his farms.

9. Prices of grains spiked as the summer went on, and remained high for nearly three years

In Virginia, oats were a crop which was considered essential to the survival of the economy. Oats were consumed by humans in the form of porridge, and in oat breads and cakes, but the grain was also an essential part of the diet of horses. Horses were of course critical in the early 19th century as motive power for plows and transportation. The shortage of oats caused the farmers who produced it to respond to the insatiable demand for the grain by raising their prices on the little they were able to harvest. According to Jefferson and other Virginia farmers, oats cost roughly 12 cents per bushel in 1815, a price already inflated by the demand placed on the crops by the recently ended War of 1812, when armies needed horses for cavalry and as draft animals.

By midsummer of 1816, oats had increased to nearly $1 per bushel, an increase which most were unable to pay. The shortage of grain, (as well as other fodder) meant what horses were available were often undernourished. European markets were unable to make up the shortage, as Europe too was locked in the grip of the low temperatures and excessive rains. In Europe the cost of maintaining horses increased dramatically, and the use of horseback for individual travel became the privilege of the wealthy few. A German tinkerer and inventor by the name of Karl Drais began experimenting with a device consisting of a piece of wood equipped with a seat upon which a person would perch while moving the legs in a manner similar to walking. Called variously the velocipede, the laufmaschine, and the draisine, it was the precursor for what is now known as the bicycle.

8. Temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere were abnormally cold, especially in New England

The New England states were particularly hard hit during the summer of 1816 by abnormally low temperatures. In the New England states, which were at the time still mostly agricultural, every month of the year suffered at least one hard frost, devastating crops in the fields and the fruit trees which had managed to blossom during the long and wet spring. On June 6, a Plymouth, Connecticut clockmaker noted in his diary that six inches of snow had fallen overnight, and he was forced to wear heavy mittens and his greatcoat during his customary walk to his shop. Sheep were a product of many New England farms, well adapted to grazing on the hillsides in pastures too small to accommodate cattle herds. Shorn in late winter, as was customary, many died in the unexpected cold, and the price of lamb and mutton reached record highs.

By the end of June, temperatures in New England had begun a rollercoaster ride which they would retain for the rest of the summer, further damaging crops and livestock. Late June in western Massachusetts saw temperatures reach 101 degrees only to plummet to the 30s over the Fourth of July. Men went about in their hayfields harvesting their sparse yields dressed in overcoats. Beans – long a staple crop of New England – froze in the fields. From Puritan pulpits across the region, the weather was attributed to a righteous judgment of God. In August there was measurable snowfall in Vermont, and though winter wheat crops yielded some harvests, the cost of moving the grain to market was often prohibitive. New Englanders, especially in the rural areas, began to forage off the land in the manner of their ancestors, surviving on what game and wild plants they could find in the woods.

7. The lack of summer provided one of literature’s most infamous characters

Most people had no idea what were the scientific reasons behind the bizarre weather in the summer months of 1816. Many of the wealthy, better able to weather the storm, so to speak, went about their business despite the adverse weather conditions. In Europe, a group of young English writers and their guests summered at Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The group included Lord Byron and an English poet named Percy Shelley, who brought with him his wife, the former Mary Wollstonecraft. Housebound by the continuing inclement weather (Mary later wrote that it was an ungenial summer), the group was forced to find ways to entertain themselves. Bored of playing parlor games one of the members, probably Lord Byron, suggested that each member of the group write a story, along the lines of a ghost story, for the entertainment of the rest.

Mrs. Shelley at first balked at the idea, unable to come up with a plot until mid-July, when she confided to her diary that at the group’s nightly discussions she arrived at the idea of “Perhaps a corpse could be reanimated.” She began writing a short story, which grew into a full length gothic novel which she entitled,  “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.” Her husband was later credited with assisting Mary with the work, though the extent of his contributions to the classic tale of horror remains disputed by scholars. Mary Shelley later credited her inspiration to a waking dream which came upon her during one of her long walks in the woods around Geneva, immersed in the gloom of the strange weather that summer. Shelley wrote that while her husband Percy – who committed suicide in 1822 – helped her with technical aspects of the writing, the tale wholly originated with her.

6. The year with no summer coincided with the end of the Little Ice Age

The year without summer is commonly ascribed to the summer months of 1816, though its effects were felt for three years, part of the final months of what is known as the Little Ice Age. Crop failures were acute in the first harvest season of the period, and such continued for at least another two years. Wet and cold weather impeded planting in the spring as well as harvests in the fall, and the size of the harvests from North America to China were insufficient to support the populations. Hunger became famine in many areas, including Europe and China, residents of rural communities migrated to urban areas in search of food through begging, and population density grew those diseases which strengthen among hungry populations, including cholera and typhus. Medicine of the time was inadequate to treat either.

The result was a globally felt – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – calamity, which encompassed starvation, diseases, and popular unrest for a period of three years. Hundreds of thousands of former soldiers, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, roamed Europe seeking the means to feed themselves and their families. In England sailors who had manned the ships of His Majesty’s Navy found themselves unemployed as warships were decommissioned, and the absence of crops reduced the amount of goods available for international trade. Ships rotted at their moorings. By the summer of 1817 organized groups of former soldiers across Europe were rioting in the belief that government warehouses held grain being kept from the starving people. In the United States, especially in still largely agricultural New England, failed crops caused farmers to pull up stakes and head for the promised lands west of the Ohio River.

5. The Swiss disaster of 1816-1817 was among the worst of the global catastrophe

Over a period of 153 days between April and September, 1816, Geneva, Switzerland recorded 130 days of rain. The temperature remained too cold for the snow in the Alps to melt, which prevented the disaster from being far worse. The streets, and more importantly the sewers and drains, of Geneva were flooded, and Lake Geneva was too swollen with rain to absorb the runoff. Meanwhile local crops were drowned by the incessant chill rains, and the harvest of 1816 was a complete failure, leading to the last recorded famine on the European continent. The lack of fodder led to the demise of hundreds of thousands of draft animals and cattle and oxen died in the waters in the fields and alongside the Swiss roads. Hundreds of thousands of Swiss were rendered homeless, living in the streets and fields unable to feed themselves, as the brutal cold of an Alpine winter settled upon them.

Beginning in early 1817 the death rate in Switzerland, already well above normal due to starvation and disease, increased by more than 50%. Oxen, horses, and cattle dead from starvation and rotting in the fields became sources of food for the desperate populace. Aid from European neighbors was nonexistent, as the harvests on the continent and in England were similarly sparse. France had but recently survived its revolution and the ravages of the Napoleonic Era, it was short of manpower, and its newly restored monarchy was inadequate to the challenges of the disaster which had befallen. As the seemingly unending winter lengthened it soon became obvious to the people of Europe that those of wealth and privilege were better able to cope, and that the burden of suffering was being borne by the urban and rural poor.

4. The Year with no summer was well documented by the educated and wealthy, including Thomas Jefferson

In the United States, former president Thomas Jefferson left behind a record of meteorological events which was so detailed it remains in use by scholars and scientists studying the global disaster two centuries later. In modern times it is compared to scientific data acquired through means not understood in Jefferson’s day. For example, the studies of tree rings cut from trees which were alive during the catastrophe in Vermont indicate that for the period including 1816 there was little or no growth, which corresponds to the notes left by Jefferson in his Farm Book and other diaries, recording observations he made hundreds of miles to the south. Among the observations left by Jefferson are records of rainfalls, which while devastatingly heavy in some areas were scant in others, including Jefferson’s Virginia.

Jefferson wrote to Albert Gallatin towards the end of the summer of 1816 describing the shortage of rainfall which had been prevalent during the ending growing season, as well as the unseasonably cold temperatures. Jefferson, who used the records he had prepared every year since occupying his “Little Mountain” as a basis, informed Gallatin that an average normal rainfall for the month of August was 9 and 1/6 of an inch. Rainfall for August 1816 had been less than one inch; “we had only 8/10 of an inch, and still it continues”. He also noted the continuing cold weather conditions, including the frosts well to the north of Virginia, of which he had learned through his voluminous correspondence. Yet not Jefferson, nor any other student of science or the weather of the time, was able to postulate the global disaster had been due to a natural event, occurring many thousands of miles away.

3. In England, the army was called out to crush urban uprisings of the starving

England, which had been instrumental in the formation of the coalitions which crushed Napoleon, was particularly hard hit by the lack of a growing season. Unable to feed itself with the best of harvests, England found its own crops devastated by the adverse weather and its trading partners unable to provide food in sufficient quantities to make them affordable for most of its population. England had already endured years of shortages as the nation threw its might behind the wars with Napoleon, and the people by 1816 had had enough. As early as in the spring of 1816 food and grain riots were experienced in the west counties. In the town of Ely armed mobs locked up the local magistrates and fought the militia which mustered to rescue them.

By the following spring mobs in the urban centers of the midlands were common. Ten thousand armed and angry people rioted in Manchester that March. The summer of 1817 saw the British Army called to quell riots and other uprisings in England, Scotland, and Wales, while the transports to the newly established penal colonies were increased. Local landlords and magistrates often ignored the pleas of the authorities in London, establishing their own mini-fiefdoms through the promises of bread and grain. In England, as well as on the European continent, demands from the wealthier classes led to an increase in more authoritarian governments and the subsequent loss of civil liberties – such as they were at the time – in response to the international demand for food. On the other side, the suspicion that governments were hoarding food and grain at the expense of the poor led to a rise in radical thought, especially in France and the German principalities.

2. The Great Migration from New England to the west began in 1816

 

Most history books attribute the movement of the American agricultural population to the west following the War of 1812 to the end of the threat from the Indian tribes formerly supported by their British allies. The end of British influence was no doubt part of the mass migration, but it takes more than just the potential of new lands to uproot families from farms held by their ancestors for generations. The catastrophic crop failures which began in 1816 were a large part of the motivation for the movement to the west, as indicated by the massive depopulation of the New England states which began during the Year with no Summer. Particularly hard hit were Vermont and New Hampshire, as residents packed up and left for the west. For many of them, it was a journey away from divine punishment, a new exodus to a promised land, a view encouraged from pulpits.

family from Vermont was one of them, which headed to the west into the lands which are now upstate New York, Indian Territory before the American victory during the War of 1812. The move coincided with a religious revival across America which became known as the Second Great Awakening, a return to the fundamentalism which had protected Americans from the ravages of an angry God, in the view of many. The family which settled for a time in New York were the Smiths, of Sharon, Vermont. While in their new home one of them, a son named Joseph, experienced the visions which eventually led to his discovery of the Book of Mormon. Without a rational explanation for the seemingly apocalyptic weather, divine explanations sufficed, not only among the Smith family, but with thousands of families fleeing what they were unable to understand, in search of an explanation and deliverance.

1. During the global cooling, the Arctic experienced warming and ice melt

As nearly all of the Northern Hemisphere in the climes occupied by humans felt decreased temperatures and abnormal rain patterns, the Arctic, including the ice cap, experienced a sharp increase in temperature which led to a melting of the ice at the top of the world. The receding ice cap allowed explorers, especially those from the United States and Great Britain, to travel deeper than ever before into the polar region, using waterways which until then had been unwelcoming sheets of ice. Since the days of Henry Hudson and the earliest English exploration of North America, the quest for the fabled Northwest Passage had occupied the minds of explorers and adventurers, and the opportunity presented by changing weather conditions was too good to pass up. 1818 was the first year in a new series of English led Polar Expeditions which continued for most of the 19th century.

Among them was an expedition led by Englishman John Ross which included a counter-clockwise navigation around Baffin Bay, which had the salutary effect of opening the waters for the exploitation of whaling ships. Though the Northwest Passage eluded him, as it did so many others over history, the boon to the whaling industry was immediate, and whalers from Great Britain and the United States were soon delivering the fine oil for illumination to ports around the world. By 1820 the effects of the Year with no Summer were relegated to history, a part of family lore in which elders described to children the weather events of the past as far more consequential than those of the current day. Unknown to them, the real effects continued for decades, and in some ways continue to this day.


No Summer, No Vacation, No Fun, No Kidding –

WIF Into History